Murtha to pro-Hoyer Dems: Stop swift-boating me! Update: Could the GOP make Hoyer Speaker?

In its schadenfreudean hilarity it is, quite simply, sublime:

“I am disconcerted that some are making headlines by resorting to unfounded allegations that occurred 26 years ago. I thought we were above this type of swift-boating attack. This is not how we restore integrity and civility to the United States Congress,” Murtha said of the ample press coverage of his link to Abscam and more recent negotiations he made as ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Committee.

They even used that idiotic photo of him that I always use to illustrate their article.

So who’s the favorite, Steny Hoyer or Spanky? Hotline says the blue dogs are sticking with Hoyer because the Okinawa plan doesn’t play well with conservative-ish voters. Fox says Hoyer has some progressive votes too due in part to his more “progressive” views on abortion. Still other Dems are expected to opt for Hoyer because it’s hard to set a clean hands agenda with a figurehead as grimy as Murtha is:

Mr. Murtha is also coming under the spotlight on another subject that dominated the campaign: Congressional ethics. He helped block changes in ethics policies that Democrats proposed last year. He has also been an astute backroom-deal maker known for trading votes for the pet projects known as earmarks. He has had family members who lobbied on issues under his control, and he was caught up in the Abscam corruption scandal more than 25 years ago, though he was never charged.

Even Rangel’s sticking with Steny.

The wild card is Pelosi. Is she actively campaigning on Murtha’s behalf or not? Nope, says the Prowler:

Potential incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has thus far declined to make phone calls on behalf of Rep. John Murtha’s run for Democrat leader, a decision that has some Murtha supporters angry. “She’s already publicly supported him, but when it comes to actually twisting some arms for some votes, she’s sitting on her hands,” says a House Ways and Means Committee staffer, whose boss is supporting Murtha for his anti-Iraqi war position…

Hoyer’s people informed the advisers that Hoyer had commitments from 20 or 21 of the 41 incoming Democrat members, as well as the majority of the caucus, seemingly locking up the leader job. “They [Hoyer’s people] seemed to think it was strong enough majority for it not to shift too much because of the letter either way,” says a Democrat leadership aide. “Hoyer’s people were taking this in stride, that this was something Pelosi had to do to help herself with the MoveOn and Cindy Sheehan types, not because she really wants Murtha in that chair.”

Yup, says the Hill:

“She will ensure that they [the Murtha camp] win. This is hard-ball politics,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a longtime Murtha supporter. “We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it.”

Pelosi’s move was deliberate, Moran said, and she was already leaning on her colleagues to affect the outcome.

“Yes, she’s making calls to people. She is contacting people and letting them know that it’s an unequivocal letter,” Moran said…

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said some members had already abandoned Hoyer for Murtha in the wake of Pelosi’s endorsement, a claim the Hoyer camp vigorously denies.

Exit question: which scenario is more likely?

Update: The Senate leadership went a lot smoother: Reid, Durbin, and Schumer.

Update: InstaGlenn floated this idea yesterday and now it’s being talked about at Opinion Journal. From today’s Political Diary, via Slublog:

Each party elects its own congressional leaders but the Speaker is elected by the entire House. That means if Republicans cross the aisle and hand their votes to respected Democratic moderate Steny Hoyer, he would be just a small number of votes shy of being elected speaker. There are still several congressional races underway through recounts so it’s not clear yet precisely how many Republicans there will be in the next Congress. Mr. Hoyer would likely need roughly 15 Democratic votes for speaker in order to beat Ms. Pelosi.

When we put the question to a senior staffer for a Republican leader yesterday, he responded only: “You aren’t the first person to bring this up today.” Such a gambit would require the cooperation of Mr. Hoyer, who may not want to make enemies within his own caucus.

Presumably the GOP would offer its votes as part of a deal whereby Hoyer would name Jane Harman to head intel instead of Alcee Hastings. Hoyer’s powerful enough that he could probably afford to make some enemies, but what about the 15 Democrats who’d be voting with the GOP? Can they afford to, particularly if it would mean torpedoing America’s first woman Speaker? Ain’t gonna happen.